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2 Russian astronauts take spacewalk at space station, perform bit of outside maintenance

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Two space station astronauts took care of a little outside maintenance Monday.

Russian flight engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin replaced a main valve on the International Space Station and prepared for the arrival of a new lab later this year.

"To save the time, I'm embroidering," one of the spacewalkers said in Russian, holding a clump of cord as he worked. "It's not easy to handle all these ropes." Later, he added, "OK, now we're doing beadwork."

Besides the valve swap 250 miles (400 kilometres) up, the spacewalkers installed clamps and retrieved science experiments, completing most all their chores. The spacewalk ran a little over at 6 1/2 hours. "Thank you for your work," radioed Russian Mission Control outside Moscow.

It was the year's third spacewalk. The four other space station residents monitored the action from inside.

Yurchikhin arrived at the space station just a few weeks ago. Misurkin has been on board since March.

The crew includes three Russians, two Americans and one Italian. The Italian and one American will conduct a pair of spacewalks for NASA in July.

Begun in 1998, the space station still is one room short.

The Russian Space Agency plans to launch a research lab by year's end to replace the Pirs air lock that has been in place since 2001. An unmanned Proton rocket will hoist the lab, which also will serve as an air lock for spacewalk preparations and a docking port for visiting craft.

As for Pirs — Russian for pier — it will be cut loose before the launch of its replacement and burn up upon re-entry as junk.

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Online:

NASA: HYPERLINK "http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html"

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